Artem Lobov knows exactly who Conor’s next opponent is… 

Artem Lobov takes on Andre “Touchy” Fili this weekend at UFC Fight Night 118 in Poland. He spoke to reporters ahead of the bout and, naturally, the conversation turned to his long-time training partner, Conor McGregor.

During the course of the interview, Lobov revealed exactly who he thinks Conor faces next, and he sounds pretty sure of himself too.

There is no shortage of fighters trying to get a fight with the UFC lightweight champ.

Jun 22, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Paulie Malignaggi reacts after losing a split decision in his 12 round WBA welterweight championship bout against Adrien Broner at the Barclay’s Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports 

Negotiations with Paulie Malignaggi

Paulie Malignaggi is not giving up on his chance for a big payday. The boxer has been angling for a bout with Conor ever since sparring with him earlier this summer. He has hired the famed boxing manager, Al Haymon, to negotiate with Dana White on his behalf.

“I know Al Haymon’s talking with Dana White, I know they’re speaking so if they want the fight they’ll make it,” Malignaggi told reporters.

The likelihood of Conor returning to the boxing ring while under UFC contract seems slim at this point. Still, Paulie isn’t giving up hope just yet.

“This fight would pay him more, this fight would get him more exposure, this fight is a bigger fight than anything else he has. Even if it’s not the next fight, even if it’s an MMA fight in his next fight, there’s no way he should be walking away from this fight unless he has no balls.”

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz III

Following his bout with Floyd Mayweather, the fight Conor sounded most excited about was the trilogy fight with Nate Diaz. It’s unlikely we see Nate Diaz again unless it is for this fight. Not unless Dana White pays him $20 million for one bout that is.

Earlier this month, rumors spread that negotiations for this bout were underway. Dana White has recently refuted those as untrue, however, though that doesn’t necessarily make that the case.

When Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee at UFC 216 it became clear there is only one fight that can be made next.

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY

Defend or Vacate

Tony Ferguson is the interim champion and Conor McGregor needs to either defend his title against him or simply give it up.

Here is what Artem Lobov had to say on the matter:

“Now that that’s [Mayweather/McGregor] over, well now he’s back to defending his belt,” Lobov said. “In my eyes, of course he’s going to fight Tony. Why wouldn’t he fight Tony? His belt is on the line. Some guy has this fake belt around his waist. Conor wants to just take that away by all means.”

“So in my eyes, 100% he’s going to fight Tony,” Lobov continued. “Who else is he going to fight? Why wouldn’t he fight Tony? Why wouldn’t he defend that belt? That belt means a lot to Conor. He’s dreamed since a very, very long time ago of having that belt, so…it’s going to be damn, damn hard to try and take that belt from him. He’s going to be defending that belt for a long time.” 

This is the bout which makes sense from a sporting perspective even if it won’t make the most money for the company.

The UFC has gotten a fair amount of backlash in recent years for booking money-fights in lieu of pure sporting competitions. Some fans are rejecting fights involving big-names these days, however, in favor of having the consensus #1 fighters facing each other. The problem is more people are still buying the big money fights on PPV.

Here is Lotov’s entire interview:

YouTube video

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Ian is a MMA writer based out of Toronto, ON Canada. An avid mixed martial arts enthusiast and passionate fan since he was born, Ian has been writing about mixed martial arts for over 5 years.